Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Plucky Young Duck

The Highway Rat, by Julia Donaldson

The Highway Rat is everything we love about Julia Donaldson:  the rhymes, the Axel Scheffler illustrations, the cameo from the Gruffalo (as a cake, nom). Based on the Alfred Noyes Poem, The Highwayman, the Highway Rat is a ruthless thief, stealing from the creatures of the forest, even stealing the hay from his own horse.
The hero of the day is a little duck, who having nothing to steal, is faced with being eaten by the by now rather portly Highway Rat. She uses his greed to lure him away and tricks him into getting lost in a cave. He ends up on the other side of the hill, where he has to reform his ways and get himself a job, and the duck returns all the stolen food to the hungry forest animals
What I thought was particularly positive about this book is that it shows children how to deal with conflict without resorting to punishments or humiliation, and teaches them that they can solve problems by themselves. It's a lesson in natural consequences for the Rat, who is so overcome by his own greed that he loses everything, including his bad attitude and his ever-growing waistline, while gaining some humility. This Julia Davidson is worth its weight in gold.

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